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From The Coalition Column of the November 2005 Perspectives

News Briefs, November 2005

Bruce Craig, November 2005

New History Language to Be Included in Higher Education Act

On September 6, 2005, Senators Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced legislation (S. 1614) to reauthorize programs associated with the Higher Education Act of 1965. Two days later, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions reported the bill out of committee with minor revisions. Among the titles included in the passed bill is one focusing on history-related postsecondary grant programs. Language in Section 851 ("American History for Freedom") authorizes the Secretary of Education to award three-year competitive grants to institutions of higher education for the purpose of strengthening postsecondary academic programs that promote and impart knowledge of "traditional American history; the history, nature, and threats to free institutions; and the history and achievements of Western Civilization."

As was the case during the last Congress when a similar measure was introduced (the bill became stalled in the House shortly before adjournment and never passed), this Congress's bill version includes a definition of "traditional" American history: "the significant constitutional, political, intellectual, economic, and foreign policy trends and issued that have shaped the course of American history; and the key episodes, turning points, and leading figures involved in the constitutional, political, intellectual, diplomatic and economic history of the United States." Notably absent is any mention of "social" history or any notion of "comparative" history.

If this legislation passes the appropriated funds would be used to design and implement programs of study, individual courses, lecture series, seminars, symposia and the like. In addition, funds may be used for the development and publication of instructional materials, research, support for undergraduate and graduate programs, student and teacher fellowships, and teacher preparation programs that stress "content mastery." Not only would grants be made available to traditional educational agencies such as colleges and universities, but also eligible "nonprofit organizations" such as museums and libraries, "whose mission is consistent" with the purposes of this act.

The legislation does not include any specific appropriation authorization but merely states that funds "are authorized to be appropriated…as may be necessary for fiscal year 2006 and each of the 5 succeeding fiscal years." Action in the Senate is expected in the coming months; no companion bill has yet been introduced in the House.

Legislative Update: Artist/Museum Partnership Act

Legislation that could provide a tax relief for historians and other authors who wish to donate their research to non-profit groups in order to gain a tax deduction is one step closer to becoming law.
On 14 February 2005, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Artist-Museum Partnership Act (S. 372) in the Senate legislation, that if passed, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow taxpayers who create literary, musical, artistic, or scholarly compositions to take federal income tax deductions if they donate their notes, manuscript rough drafts, and research notes to qualified tax-exempt organizations and meet other provisions stipulated in the law. While S. 372 has languished in the Senate Finance Committee, it is expected to be wrapped into a larger bill known as the CARE Act, which is slotted to be reintroduced in the Senate.

Crafted by a bipartisan coalition led by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the CARE Act is a bill with many incentives designed to increase charitable giving. In the last Congress, the Artist's bill was also included in a slightly different version of the Senate version of the CARE Act. On the House side, Congressmen Roy Blunt (R-MO) Majority Whip and new Acting Majority Leader of the House of Representatives is preparing to introduce a version of the CARE Act that does not include the artist's bill. However, Hill insiders report that Blunt favors this addition and will support it in the conference that will reconcile the differing House and Senate versions once they pass their respective chambers.

Given the number of natural disasters and pressure on the government to support relief efforts that could be aided by non-profit organizations, the CARE Act holds promise of passing prior to the end of this session of Congress.

Latest Ruling in the Neverending PRA Battle

On September 24, 2004, Judge Kollar-Kotelly of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling on a claim made by historians and archivists in the case "American Historical Association, et al v. National Archives and Records Administration."

The case focuses on a claim for access to 74 pages (9 documents) of presidential-related "confidential" (P-5 exemption) materials dating back to the administration of Ronald Reagan that President George W. Bush claimed a privilege on and refused to release. In her ruling the judge held that the law required that the plaintiffs had to demonstrate a "special need" to overcome the claim of privilege, and that in spite of the passage of time the special need still has to be asserted; since no such claim was made, summary judgment was granted to the government.

Regarding another count still pending in the original suit made by the historical/archival community—that the Executive Order 13233 signed by President George W. Bush on 1 November 2001 which purports to "further implement" the Presidential Records Act of 1978 contains illegal provisions—the judge granted the plaintiffs motion to "reconsider" her earlier order from March 2004 in which she dismissed the case on "ripeness" grounds. Judge Kollar-Kotelly now has directed that the plaintiffs and the government prepare a new round of stand-alone briefings. Public Citizen Litigation Group is preparing the brief that will be submitted on behalf of the plaintiff organizations by the 31 October 2006, the court filing deadline.

NARA Selects Lockheed Martin to Build ERA: Advisory Committee Announced

On September 8, 2005, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein announced the award of a $308 million, six year contract to Lockheed Martin to build the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The ERA system seeks to capture and preserve the electronic records of the federal government, regardless of format; ensure hardware and software independence; and provide access to the American public and Federal officials. According to NARA officials, after a year-long design competition, Lockheed Martin was chosen to build the archives of the future "based on the technical merit of the solution it proposed, the excellence of their system and software engineering methodology, and the quality of their project management."

The Electronic Records Archives' goal is clear and simple: a system that accepts, preserves, and makes accessible - far into the future - any type of electronic document. Lockheed Martin was selected based on its ability to design a system which addresses in considerable depth NARA's business needs, on the one hand, and on the other hand, a system that entails a modern, service-oriented architecture. NARA's business needs encompass handling rapidly-growing volumes of electronic records, ensuring the authenticity of those records, preserving them for the long term, and providing public access while protecting privacy and sensitive information. The announcement comes at the close of a one-year design competition between Harris Corporation and Lockheed Martin. The announcement marks the beginning of the ERA system development, with the initial operating capability targeted for release during Fiscal Year 2007.

During the same press conference, Dr. Kenneth Thibodeau, Director of the Electronic Records Archives Program, announced the formation of a high-level committee to advise and make recommendations to Archivist of the United States on issues related to the development, implementation, and use of the ERA system. This committee is named the Advisory Committee on the Electronic Records Archives (ACERA).

The advisory committee will provide an ongoing structure for bringing together experts in computer science and information technology, archival science and records management, information science, the law, history, genealogy, and education. The twenty-member committee are recognized experts and leaders in their field.

Committee members include: Dr. David Carmichael, State Archivist of Georgia; Dr. Jerry Handfield, State Archivist of Washington State; Richard Pearce-Moses, Director of Digital Government Information at the Arizona State Library and Archives; Jonathan Redgrave, partner at Jones Day; Dr. Sharon Dawes, Director of the Center for Technology in Government and Associate Professor of Public Administration and Policy, the State University of New York at Albany; Dr Luciana Duranti, Chair and Professor of Archival Studies, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, The University of British Columbia, and Director of the InterPARES Project; Dr. Daniel Greenstein, Associate Vice Provost Scholarly Information and University Librarian, California Digital Library, University of California; Andy Maltz, Director, Science and Technology Council, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; David Rencher, Director, Records and Information Division, Family and Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Dr. Kelly Woestman, Professor and History Education Director, Pittsburg State University.